How you can still be healthy while eating at Mexican, Italian and other international restaurants


Charlotte is a great hub for international cuisine, and eating at these restaurants doesn’t have to work against your health and fitness goals. Trying foods from different cultures may actually help combat healthy eating fatigue and boredom by introducing you to a wider variety of healthy options.

Read on for ideas on what to order at some of Charlotte’s most popular international restaurants.

For Mediterranean food…

Start your meal with a hummus appetizer to get a foundation of protein and fiber to start filling you up, then order your food on sticks! Kebabs are a fantastic healthy option that include lean proteins with vegetables and rice – which is easy on the digestive system.

CLT Hot Spots:

Yafo Kitchen, 720 Gov Morrison St #120

Kabab-Je, 233 Matthews Township Pkwy

Jasmine Grill, 5033 South Blvd

For Vietnamese food…

You’ll see lots of fresh herbs, vegetables and seafood, healthy fats in the form of coconut-based sauces and cooking techniques that use water or broth instead of oils on the menu. For an appetizer, start with spring rolls, and for an entrée, order pho or goi tom.

CLT Hot Spots:

Persuasion Restaurant, 2214 Park Rd

Lang Van, 3019 Shamrock Dr

Vietnam Grille, 5615 South Blvd.

For Indian food…

Some buzz-words to look for when ordering your appetizer or entrée that are nutritious and delicious: tandoori, masala, dal, baingan bharta, and kebabs. Opt to pass when you see: paneer and malai (cheesy/creamy), masala, samosas, dum aloo and naan. Feel free to enjoy some rice or roti with your meal, but be conscious of the serving size.

CLT Hot Spots:

The Blue Taj, 14815 Ballantyne Village Way

Copper, 311 East Blvd

Saffron Cuisine, 2135 Ayrsley Town Blvd B

For Japanese food…

Fish, rice, and vegetables – the staples of a Japanese diet. Lucky for you, most of the menu items are steamed, boiled, or raw! For an app, good options are edamame, seaweed salad, or miso soup. Most Japanese sauces are loaded with salt, so request low-sodium soy sauce and ask them to use light sauce or get it on the side.

Skip the tempura fried items and opt for brown rice over white rice. Eat the entire meal with chopsticks to slow down your eating and allow your stomach to have time to realize it’s full, reducing overeating.

CLT Hot Spots:

RuSan’s, 2440 Park Rd

Baku, 4515 Sharon Rd

New Zealand Café, 1717 Sardis Rd N #6-A

Musashi, 10110 Johnston Rd #15

For Korean food…

You’ll see a wide variety of fermented items on the menu, which are superfoods for keeping your gut bacteria well-fed and in tip-top shape … which keeps your digestive system strong, improves your immune system, and can aid in weight loss. To start, try a tasty soup or stew like samgaetang, jjigae, or seollangtang. For an entrée, bibimbap or bulgogi are great choices. Be sure to get some kimchi too!

CLT Hot Spots:

PePeRo, 10920 Monroe Rd

Korean Restaurant, 7323 E Independence Blvd

Hibiscus, 1600 E Woodlawn Rd #150

For Thai food…

Start your meal with a soup like tom yum or a small cup of coconut-milk-based soup like tom kha gai, spring rolls, or satay. For your entrée, you’ll find tons of stir fries on the menu. Be mindful of fried and overly-saucy dishes, as well as portion sizes. Usually with pasta-based dishes, you’ll get a LOT, so pre-box some up for later. Order brown rice instead of white when possible.

CLT Hot Spots:

Basil Thai, 210 N Church St

Rai Lay Thai, 1520 South Blvd #130

Thai House, 8706 Pineville Matthews Rd

For Mexican food…

Take the healthier route by skipping the chips and queso (or if you do want chips, dip
them in guacamole instead), swapping your taco shells for lettuce wraps, and if you
want something saucy — ask for sauce on the side to add it yourself. For a starter, I like
a salad (no cheese/bacon/chips), add avocado, and use olive oil/lime juice for a
‘dressing’ or ceviche, and for an entrée go with lettuce-wrapped tacos or fajitas (no oil).

CLT Hot Spots:

Cabo Fish Taco, 3201 N Davidson St

Paco’s Tacos & Tequila, 6401 Morrison Blvd #8a

Sabor Latin Street Grill (super cheap too), 3205 N Davidson St Ste 105

For Chinese food…

Start with spring rolls and for an entrée, check out the “Steamers” section of the menu to order steamed protein (chicken, beef, shrimp, etc) and vegetables, then for flavor, get your favorite sauce on the side to lightly dip. Opt for brown rice instead of white rice for more fiber and nutrients. If you want to “healthify” a traditionally unhealthy dish, like General Tso Chicken (loaded with sugar and sodium, and uses fried chicken) ask for the chicken to
be steamed and sauce on the side for dipping.

CLT Hot Spots:

Wan-Fu, 10719 Kettering Dr,

Taipei South, 10106 Johnston Rd

Baoding, 4722 Sharon Rd F

For Italian food…

Skip the rolls (or if you do want rolls, spread real butter on them), avoid cream-based soups and sauces and opt for broth-based or tomato-based, and avoid ooy-gooey cheesy dishes. Start with a cheese-less salad (dressing on the side) or minestrone or mussels, and for your entrée go with pasta primavera (add protein) or cacciatore or piccata. Since servings are usually HUGE, box half up before you start eating.

CLT Hot Spots:

Aria Tuscan Grill, 100 N Tryon St

Oggi, 16646 Hawfield Way Dr

Toscana, 6401 Morrison Blvd #6-B

For more tips on how to eat healthfully while eating out, click here.

Photo: Michael C. Hernandez/SouthPark Magazine


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